Study Guide: Rhode Island Law School 1L – Property
I. Introduction to Property Law
The first essential concept in property law is understanding the distinction between real property (land and anything permanently attached to it) and personal property (any property that is not real property).
II. Ownership and Possession
In property law, it is critical to understand the concepts of ownership and possession. Ownership confers the right to exclude others from the property, while possession refers to the control or occupancy of the property.
Case Law: Pierson v. Post (1805): Using the IRAC method:
- Issue: Whether mere pursuit of a wild animal constitutes possession.
- Rule: Pursuit alone does not confer a right of ownership over a wild animal.
- Analysis: The court held that mere pursuit did not create a legal right to the property, but rather the wild animal must be captured or killed.
- Conclusion: Pierson had legal ownership since he killed the animal.
III. Landlord-Tenant Law
In Rhode Island, landlords and tenants have specific rights and responsibilities. The Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of 1987 outlines these.
Case Law: Hall v. Nascimento (1989):
- Issue: Whether a landlord can be held liable for injuries sustained by a tenant due to poor property conditions.
- Rule: Rhode Island law imposes a duty on landlords to keep the premises in a livable condition.
- Analysis: The court held that a landlord could be held liable if they knew, or should have known, about the dangerous condition and failed to fix it.
- Conclusion: The landlord was found liable.
An easement is a non-possessory right to use another person’s property. In Rhode Island, easements can be created by express grant or reservation, implication, necessity, or prescription.
Case Law: Carbone v. Vigliotti (1998):
- Issue: Whether a 20-year use of a path created an easement by prescription.
- Rule: Under Rhode Island law, a prescriptive easement requires a use that is open, notorious, hostile, and continuous for ten years.
- Analysis: The court held that the use of the path satisfied the requirements for a prescriptive easement.
- Conclusion: The court established an easement by prescription.
V. Adverse Possession
Adverse possession is a way of acquiring title to property through continuous possession or use. Rhode Island has a ten-year requirement for adverse possession.
Case Law: Downing v. Gallagher (2003):
- Issue: Whether the continuous use of the property for ten years can lead to ownership through adverse possession.
- Rule: In Rhode Island, the claimant must possess the land continuously, openly, notoriously, and hostilely for ten years.
- Analysis: The court found that Downing satisfied all elements for adverse possession.
- Conclusion: Title to the property was given to Downing.
VI. Future Interests
Future interests deal with the ownership of property that will begin at some future date. There are several types of future interests, including reversion, remainder, and executory interest.
This refers to the legal process of transferring property from one person to another. It involves a series of steps, including negotiating a contract, conducting a title search, and finally, closing the transaction.
Zoning laws dictate how property in specific geographic zones can be used. These laws can affect the value of properties and determine their use.
IX. Rights and Duties of Co-Owners
Co-owners of a property have the right to possess and use the entire property, regardless of their ownership interest. They also have the responsibility to share in the costs of owning the property.
X. Takings Clause
This constitutional provision prevents the government from taking private property for public use without just compensation.
Case Law: Kelo v. City of New London (2005):
- Issue: Whether a city violates the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause when it takes private property for economic development.
- Rule: The takings clause allows the government to take private property for public use with just compensation.
- Analysis: The court held that the city’s economic development plan constituted a permissible “public use” under the Fifth Amendment.
- Conclusion: The city’s taking of private property for economic development did not violate the takings clause.